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WhiteTrash BBQ -- Real Pit Barbecue from New York City. This is the story of a fire obsessed guy, living in Brooklyn, with a dream of producing award winning, competition busting, real Barbeque. Come live the dream as I compete around the country in the KCBS Championship Barbecue circuit.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Why I cook with wood.

This weekend, I was asked by my cousin to "barbeque" the chicken for her party. She has a Weber kettle, so I thought I would actually Q it, but she wanted me to grill the food. After explaining the differences of grilling vs. barbecue, we inevitably got into the classic wood vs. gas discussion.

"Gas is cleaner." "Gas is easier to control." "Gas is faster." "It tastes the same." "You can't cook over wood/charcoal in the winter." Well, I agree with two points. Gas is cleaner since you don't have any ash to clean up afterwards and gas is faster. Sure it's faster. Flip a switch and the fire is on. But to me these don't outweigh the negative aspects of gas cooking.

First and foremost, a gas grill can not match the flavor imparted on the food from a real wood, or wood and charcoal fire. Some people say that they can't taste the difference. I can. My family can. When I cook for people over a wood fire, they can tell the difference. Isn't that the real reason for cooking any food..the flavor? Wood and charcoal = flavor.

You can't create real barbeque on a gas grill. Barbeque, by definition requires low, slow cooking using wood. Gas grills can not maintain a low enough temperature for proper slow cooked barbeque. So, IMHO, gas grills are only good for grilling.

Second, if you know what you're doing, it's very easy to control a wood/charcoal fire. Sure you have hot and cold spots in your cooker whether you're smoking or grilling, but working with this is part of the fun of the cooking process.

Third, I like building and maintaining fires. Cooking, camping, or bon fires, doesn't matter. Maybe I have some pyromaniac tendencies, but somehow fire connects with something primitive in my soul. I can watch a fire for hours.

Lastly, you can cook using wood/charcoal regardless of the outside temperature. It will require more fuel to maintain the cooking temperature, but so what. You'll use more gas in the winter as well.

In an old post, I talked more about barbeque vs. grilling and why they are two completely different methods of cooking.

Wood, when properly used is actually another "spice" in your recipe. Each type of wood imparts a different flavor on your food. Try using each wood separately at first, then mix them for your own flavor stamp.

So what are the wood types suitable for smoking? Here's a list that was compiled from various sources, including the BBQ Faq, The BBQ-Brethren and Life Tyme Grills.

ACACIA - these trees are in the same family as mesquite. When burned in a smoker, acacia has a flavor similar to mesquite but not quite as heavy. A very hot burning wood.

ALDER - Very delicate with a hint of sweetness. Good with fish, pork, poultry, and light-meat game birds.

ALMOND - A sweet smoke flavor, light ash. Good with all meats.

APPLE - Very mild with a subtle fruity flavor, slightly sweet. Good with poultry (turns skin dark brown) and pork.

ASH - Fast burner, light but distinctive flavor. Good with fish and red meats.

BIRCH - Medium-hard wood with a flavor similar to maple. Good with pork and poultry.

CHERRY - Mild and fruity. Good with poultry, pork and beef. Some List members say the cherry wood is the best wood for smoking. Wood from chokecherry trees may produce a bitter flavor.

COTTONWOOD - It is a softer wood than alder and very subtle in flavor. Use it for fuel but use some chunks of other woods (hickory, oak, pecan) for more flavor. Don't use green cottonwood for smoking.

CRABAPPLE - Similar to apple wood.

GRAPEVINES - Tart. Provides a lot of smoke. Rich and fruity. Good with poultry, red meats, game and lamb.

HICKORY - Most commonly used wood for smoking--the King of smoking woods. Sweet to strong, heavy bacon flavor. I don't know if I get the flavor of bacon from this wood, but it does taste like BBQ to me. Good with pork, ham and beef.

LILAC - Very light, subtle with a hint of floral. Good with seafood and lamb.

MAPLE - Smoky, mellow and slightly sweet. Good with pork, poultry, cheese, and small game birds.

MESQUITE - Strong earthy flavor. Good with beef, fish, chicken, and game. One of the hottest burning. Can be bitter. My family doesn't like it if I use only mesquite in the fire. They feel it makes the food "hot" and "spicy."

MULBERRY - The smell is sweet and reminds one of apple. My friend Phil calls this "cotton candy" wood because the smoke smells a lot like cotton candy.

OAK - Heavy smoke flavor--the Queen of smoking wood. RED OAK is good on ribs, WHITE OAK makes the best coals for longer burning. All oak varieties reported as suitable for smoking. Good with red meat, pork, fish and heavy game.

ORANGE, LEMON and GRAPEFRUIT - Produces a nice mild smoky flavor. Excellent with beef, pork, fish and poultry.

PEAR - A nice subtle smoke flavor. Much like apple. Excellent with chicken and pork.

PECAN - Sweet and mild with a flavor similar to hickory. Tasty with a subtle character. Good with poultry, beef, pork and cheese. Pecan is an all-around superior smoking wood.

SWEET FRUIT WOODS - APRICOT, PLUM, PEACH, NECTARINE - Great on most white or pink meats, including chicken, turkey, pork and fish. The flavor is milder and sweeter than hickory.

WALNUT - ENGLISH and BLACK - Very heavy smoke flavor, usually mixed with lighter woods like almond, pear or apple. Can be bitter if used alone. Good with red meats and game.

BBQ List members and other internet sources report that wood from the following trees is suitable for smoking: AVOCADO, BAY, CARROTWOOD, KIAWE, MADRONE, MANZANITA, GUAVA, OLIVE, BEECH, BUTTERNUT, FIG, GUM, CHESTNUT, HACKBERRY, PIMIENTO, PERSIMMON, and WILLOW. The ornamental varieties of fruit trees (i.e. pear, cherry, apple, etc.) are also suitable for smoking.

Don't use any wood from conifer trees, such as PINE, FIR, SPRUCE, REDWOOD, CEDAR, CYPRESS, etc.

There are many trees and shrubs in this world that contain chemicals toxic to humans--toxins that can even survive the burning process. Remember, you are going to eat the meat that you grill and the smoke particles and chemicals from the wood and what may be on or in the wood
are going to get on and in the meat. Use only wood for grilling that you are sure of.

If you have some wood and do not know what it is, DO NOT USE IT FOR GRILLING FOOD. Burn it in your fireplace but not your smoker.

ELM and EUCALYPTUS wood is unsuitable for smoking, as is the wood from SASSAFRAS, SYCAMORE and LIQUID AMBER trees.

Here are some more woods that you should not to use for smoking:

Never use lumber scraps, either new or used. First, you cannot know for sure what kind of wood it is; second, the wood may have been chemically treated; third, you have no idea where the wood may have been or how it was used. For all you know, that free oak planking could have been used in a sewage treatment plant.

Never use any wood that has been painted or stained. Paint and stains can impart a bitter taste to the meat and old paint often contains lead.
Do not use wood scraps from a furniture manufacturer as this wood is often chemically treated.

Never use wood from old pallets. Many pallets are treated with chemicals that can be hazardous to your health and the pallet may have been used to carry chemicals or poison.

Avoid old wood that is covered with mold and fungus that can impart a bad taste to your meat. If you have some good cherry wood (or other good smoking wood) that is old and has a fungus growth and you want to use it, pre-burn it down to coals before you put it into your smoker.

Never burn leaves or poisonous vines. Be especially careful not to burn poison ivy, sumac, poison oak etc. The oils in the vines when burned will spread the toxins in the air and onto your food.

Some people say to pull the bark off the wood before you burn it. Bark is a natural fire block on the trees. Healthy bark will help a tree to survive a fire. Some people say that bark produces a bitter smoke. I don't know, I've never tested the theory. If I can get the bark off easily, I do it. If not, it goes right into the fire.

Grilling or smoking over a wood fire is more challenging than cooking over charcoal. Wood burns hotter than most charcoal and as a consequence, burns faster. Wood also stays in the 'hot coals' stage for a shorter period of time than charcoal.

There are other things besides wood that can be used to flavor your food. Some people use spices or onions, garlic etc. I've tried them. I didn't notice a real change in the flavor of the food. AND spices are expensive. I'd rather use a pinch of oregano in a marinade to flavor the meat than to burn a jar full in the fire. When I was in New Hampshire, I had bacon that was smoked over corn cobs. It was the best bacon I've ever had in my life. I'm going to try that soon.

One last thing about cooking with wood. When you cook with wood, you want to see very little or no smoke. Clean, blue smoke is what you're after. White thick smoke is bitter. Black smoke is toxic. Play with your wood. You'll see what I mean.

Here's an interesting link about BBQ and grilling: It’s barbeque time!

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Phil's remarks.

Well, I caused a bit of a rucus with my post about cooking in New Jersey. This blog is meant as a place for me to express my thoughts about cooking Barbeque. Some times, I'm going to be hard on myself. Some times, I'll be easy. Some times I will express thoughts and opinions that will not be popular. But they are my opions and thoughts.

I post alot of information in the Barbeque Brethren web site. Phil and Dave, my two cooking partners in New Jersey, are charter member of the BBQ-Brethren so much of this disussion was posted there. I'm going to repost it here in case there is anyone actually reading this and wants to know what happened.

Phil's first public response was.."Damn, next time someone remind me to just bring a whip.!! or better yet.. Maybe grow in a thin mustache and an armband. Heil!"

Shit. I didn't feel that way. It was not my intention to insult Phil at all, only togive my impressions about the contest. I aplogized to Phil and this is what he said...

"Well....but this one line bugs me..
You wrote
"There was nothing that I did that helped win that contest.".

You are so far from the truth. There is no way we could have even placed without your help.... and Daves and Mine. We were functioning as a team. Right at the beginning i said we'll go with what I know unless someone has a secret weapon. No one spoke up so i went with what i am familiar with. But no team can function without a support staff. If there are 4 cooks, you still need a support staff of at least 3. In this case, yeah i was cookin, but i was also freaking out, getting lost, tripping over myself and becoming totally derailed. Everyone there did what had to be done and each of us kept the other on track. I jumped track a few times because of the events that happened last week and you and dave got me focused and back on track. At one time while slicing the meat, it started bleeding across the cutting board. All I saw was the blood and I froze... Flashback to the site last week in front of my truck. I was about to have a meltdown... You came back and bitchslapped me... "We need the other brisket.. That one is no good". YOU explained how judges look at the brisket. I was not aware of that(accordian thing).... I went with your judgement and we won first. You dont think thats a contribution to our win? You were 1/3 of a winning team and also flew solo on the presentations. The only thing i did was fluff up the pork with you...The ODD number of pieces was something that was told to me about doing presentation boxes. Always put an odd number in.. like in floral arrangments. I was relaying those words.

We all put alot of sweat into those 2 days, and no one person is responsible, its a team effort.. the glory goes to each of us. I couldnt do that alone and I'd be part of that same team anyday."

So, like I predicted, Phil is giving me more credit than I think I deserve. So I guess I did contribute to the win. Let's leave it there.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Cooking in New Jersey

Over the weekend I got a chance to compete in Guitarbeque, which is the New Jersey – Kansas City Barbeque Society – state championship contest. Guitarbeque is primarily a music festival held in Asbury Park as part of its ongoing efforts to revitalize this ocean front community.

Asbury Park is a strange town. It must have been something special in the 20s to 50s, but it’s nothing now. I can’t believe that ocean front property, less than one hour from NYC isn’t being developed. It’s worse than Coney Island. I can understand why Coney Island will always remain a slum; it was filled with public housing projects by Robert Moses, but Asbury looks like it has the potential to be something great.

The locals keep saying that gentrification is just around the corner, but I don’t believe them. Last time I was in Asbury Park was in 1988 for an Amway meeting which was held in the world famous Paramount Theatre. The theatre was falling apart then and it’s falling apart now. It’s really a shame because it really is a beautiful building. I do hope that the town comes back, but it’s going to be a long haul. One thing that really pissed me off was that there is a $5 charge to go on the beach. You would think that a town that is trying to "come back" and attract tourists would offer free admission to the beach. Let people spend money in the stores and restaurants! On, that’s right, there aren’t any!

The barbecue contest seemed to be a second thought to the music festival. That being said, the contest was very well run. Arlie, the organizer, whose last name I don’t know, did a great job. The volunteers were great, especially the tattooed lady on the golf cart. (Groucho – where are you when I need you?) There was this HUGE dalmatian called Abercrombie who wandered the grounds freely. This monster looked like a mix of dalmatian and mastiff, but I was assured he was pure bred. Pigs were everywhere. Dancing pigs, snorting pigs, smoking pigs, pigs in fire, a woman in a pig outfit, pigs arm in arm as they headed into the overns. Guarding one site was Uncle Sam with a billy club. Can anyone say freak show?

I got to cook as a member of the BBQ-Brethren cooking team. The team for this cook-off consisted of Phil Rizzardi, the Grand Pooh-Bah of the brethren; David Little, of the Southern Brethren fame; and myself. I got there about 8:30 on Friday and Phil and Dave were already there and setting up. We put up the tent, setup the tables and built the kitchen. We divided the tent into two areas so that we could work in private in the back section. Out front we set up a table with Phil’s hardware (read that as trophies) from past contests. Also on the table were Fudo, the god of fire, two Schaefer beer cans and Parrott Head’s hat. The Brethren banner was hung in the tent with care in hopes that the meat inspector soon would be there.

So with me in an apron, and Phil and Dave in their caps, we settled in for a long crazy lap. In the kitchen were spices galore. Phil makes all his rubs, mops, sauces and glazes on the fly, so he emptied out his home kitchen and dumped it here. It was like being in Costco without the organization. We had three tables in the back of the tent. Two tables were covered with shit. I set up another table way in the back for the sinks. We were provided with a hose for water and an extension cord for power.

The meat was stored in coolers in the back. We had Kobe beef brisket, Tyson chicken, and Swift, I think, baby back ribs. Phil picked up the pork at a local butcher of his, so I’m not sure what brand they were. The meat inspector came by and took a cursory look to make sure that we hadn’t tampered with the meat and that it was held at the proper temperature. Phil was pissed off that he had left the prime rib which was going to be our dinner at home, but apart from that we were ready to go.

Leaving Dave behind in the tent, Phil and I went out shopping to pick up the garnishes, ice, vodka and a new prime rib. We got back to the tent and fired up the Klose, put in the rib and some racks of lamb and waited for dinner.

I was raring to go, this was my first contest and I hate not being busy, but there was nothing to do now except wait. And wait. And wait. This is not something I expected. Dave was full of interesting tales, and he is blessed with the ability to pick up a story from where he left off at any time. Mid-word if necessary. And he has lots of stories.

Friday night was a food fest with the neighbors – Zak’s Barbeque. They had made up some fresh corn on the cob, shrimp kabobs and some sort of rice which I didn’t eat. We brought over the lamb and the prime rib and everyone ate and BS’d about BBQ. Other teams wandered in and I wondered around talking with other groups.

So we brined, injected and rubbed the food. The brisket and pork butt were in the cookers by 10pm. We used the Weber Smokey Mountain Cookers for these. The chicken and ribs were brined and sitting in the coolers. So what did we do from 10pm to 4am when we decided to try and get some sleep? Damned if I know. I know we were busy prepping the chicken and the ribs, but I can’t tell you the sequence of events. Sometime during the evening, I noticed that some card reading was taking place in our neighbor’s site. I went over and was given a very disturbing 10 second read by their physic. Well, boy howdy, now the freak show was complete. Fortune tellers!

Picture this. On the edge of this patch of grass that passes for a park in Asbury Park, two grown men crawl into a tent at 4 in the morning. I’m sure that the night before this “park” was crawling with hookers and drug dealers. The festival was setup with police blocking the entrances and patrolling all the time. I felt like I was sleeping in a refuge camp. Being a city boy, I never let my guard down. I couldn’t sleep. This setup was too un-natural for me to relax. Dave, however, continued to tell stories in his sleep. That guy can snore. Around 5 in the morning, Dave got up and I tried to get some sleep, but it didn’t work. After about 15 minutes I went out to the cookers.

Phil joined me and Dave about a half hour later. He was not a happy camper at this point. I guess he was feeling the pressure of the contest. Dave continued his story telling as he and I went off to clean the brine off the chicken and ribs. I had found a huge barrel that was setup in the middle of the park for people to wash their hands. It was still before sunrise, so it hadn’t been used yet. Dave felt a bit uneasy filling this up with the used brine, but I didn’t care. It was the best place for us to wash off our meat. It sure of hell was a lot easier than trying to use a hose back at our site.

We got back to the cooker and Phil wasn’t happy with our cleaning results. We had to dry the meat off before we could marinate. So we did and we marinated. We watched the temps on the WSMs and got the Klose fired up.

Sharon, Phil’s wife came by looking all nice and rested and Phil made her some eggs for breakfast and she went off for a run on the boardwalk. Later, Phil offered us breakfast and fired up some bacon on a gas stove. He then promptly forgot about it. The bacon burned while we did other things. Later we had some scrambled eggs with shells.

After everything was in the cookers, I cleaned up the back, putting away the spices and washing the dishes. I setup an area where I could work on the presentation boxes and went to work cleaning the lettuce. It was the dirtiest lettuce I’ve ever seen in my life. I needed to wash and dry every leaf all the way down to the crown.

About 11:00 the food network cameras started poking around. Phil got interviewed pretty thoroughly by this cute little lady producer. She asked me what my role was on the team and I said that I was the “pit bitch.” She laughed and said that she didn’t know if I could say that on camera, but later when I was being interviewed, they asked me the question again. So, let’s hope “pit bitch” makes it onto TV.

Phil and I were pulling chicken off the cooker, trying to determine which pieces were the 6 best for competition when the cameras struck again. This time Jim O’Conner from “All American Festivals” and “The Secret Life Of…” was here asking the questions. He asked to try some of the food and Phil gave him some wings. Jim took a bite and declared it delicious. He seemed to be very intrigued by the name BBQ-Brethren and our tag line Brothers in Smoke. He asked if Dave and Phil were brothers and they said no, and Dave was un-leashed on the media. Phil tried to cut him short, but I think that the film editor will be his only salvation.

I set up a box for the chicken presentation and Phil was determined to put 7 pieces of chicken in. Now the requirements only call for 6, but Phil kept repeating that an odd number of pieces looked better than an even number. The problem with that is 7 pieces wouldn’t fit cleanly in the box. So after much discussion we settled on 6. Because of this we were almost late getting this box to the judges table.

Sharon, easily being the most attractive of the team, was chosen as the runner. And run she did! Right into a string that was holding the banner into place. Right across her eyes and nose. But – she didn’t drop the box! What a team player. The poor woman had a red line across her face for the rest of the day.

Ribs were next and I was feeling the pressure. Phil had pulled off some and we were trying to pick out the best ones. Stupid me, I didn’t taste any of them, but only selected based on appearance. Phil and I disagreed again, so Sharon was brought in to decide. She chose the third alternative, but then changed her mind when I pointed out my first choice.

Again, Phil wanted to do 7 ribs. I had laid out the garnish in the box with a specific pattern of ribs in mind. Sharon called it a work of art and I was pretty pleased with it. 7 ribs, however was one too many for the design. Oh well, Phil’s the boss and I adjusted the presentation to fit his needs. Off went the ribs. This time we were right on schedule.

I think we all noticeably relaxed at this point. We were in the grove and things were going on schedule. Phil even answered a phone call from one of the other brethren.

Next up was the pulled pork. Dave pulled the pork almost to Phil’s satisfaction. This time Phil wanted a ring of the bark with a mound of pulled pork in the middle. I laid it out and wasn’t happy with the mound of pork. It looked like puked up spaghetti. Phil and I played with it until it was time to present. It looked pretty good by now.

A strange thing happened at this point. Phil, Dave and I had some free time to hang out and BS. So the three of us sat on the edge of the trailer and Sharon took our pictures. 10 minutes before turn in time and there we were taking a leisurely break.

Now -- the brisket. Phil was slicing one brisket and I tried it and hated it. It was dried out, but still tender. In my never to be humble opinion, it wasn’t competition quality brisket. Phil disagreed. Dave came in on my side and Phil started slicing the other brisket. This one was perfect, but I liked the taste of the original brisket better. I did the accordion test on this and it passed, so we decided to submit the second brisket. Phil cuts his brisket thick, but I was able to put it all in the box. I was running out of ideas on how to arrange the meat, so this time it was a very minimalist presentation of just green leaf lettuce and flat parsley. When it was done, it was absolutely beautiful. I think it was the best presentation of all.

Sharon and I walked the brisket to the judge’s tent. This time we were stopped by the camera man as he wanted to film us submitting the entry. What he really wanted to film was Sharon, and who can blame him? I asked him if he wanted to see the brisket, he said yes and filmed it. As fortune would have it, the Food Network has a shot of the first place brisket as it was submitted to the judges!

I looked down at the food. It wasn’t laid out how I designed it! SHIT!

I have a confession to make here. When I set up the boxes for the presentations, they were parallel to the edge of the table. They looked very nice and I was happy with them. However, when they were opened and presented to the judges, they would be turned 90 degrees. I hope the presentations didn’t suffer. I know the brisket looked good, actually I think it was more interesting that way. Who knows, I think we did OK.

The final results of the contest were: 1st in Brisket, 2nd in Chicken, and 4th overall. Damn. Not a bad showing, but nowhere near what I wanted. I was disappointed. I know Phil was disappointed too. We beat out some high level, even legendary teams, but I really wanted to win it overall. Oh well. Next time.

After the foods were all in for judging, we got hit with a great rain storm. Our tent was being ripped from the ground and we all had to hold it down. A vendor’s tent out in the field was ripped apart and another twisted like a ball of yarn. Everything got soaked. Very exciting, but it put an end to the contest. I was looking forward to hanging out and eating the other team’s Q.

The overall experience of competing was great. I hung out with two great guys. I couldn't have asked for better team mates. I ate good and great BBQ and have a new story to tell my grandchildren. Working with Phil and Dave was a great experience. I couldn’t have found two more different types of guys. I learned a lot about competition Q. Phil’s cooking techniques differed from mine in many ways. I’m going to try some of his methods at home. I don’t have a problem stealing the best.

To be completely honest, it was hard for me to take on a support role on the team. I knew it would be. I felt very out of place much of the time. I like being in charge. When we won, it was Phil’s victory, not mine and that was hard to take. Don't get me wrong. I had a great time. I'd do it again in a heartbeat. Phil is an extremely generous guy and I’m fairly sure he doesn’t share my opinion, but it’s the truth. He picked the meat, he did the rubs and the marinades and he controlled the fires. He laid out the money. Me, I was his bitch, not his equal. There was nothing that I did that helped win that contest.

I’ve been thinking about what it will be like when I have my own team. Seeing all the things that need to be done, I wonder how much of it I can delegate and still feel comfortable. But that’s what it’s all about. Creating the Barbeque that will take the titles next year. Onward.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Going to New Jersey

Very early Friday morning, I’ll be driving to Asbury Park, New Jersey to compete in my first barbecue contest. Check it out here: Guitarbeque This contest will be filmed for All American Festivals for the Food network, and this contest actually has prize money.

I’m joining the BBQ-Brethren’s cooking team. I’m not sure what my role on the team will be yet, but I’m not the cook. Phil – the Grand Poobah – of the Brethren is the cook. From our conversations so far, it looks like I’m going to be his little bitch and do cleaning, organizing and all the shit stuff that needs to be done. That’s OK. Phil’s putting up a lot of money to compete in this contest. My role here is to help Phil shine as much as possible and make him look good. But, I’ll get the chance to learn from him. He’s done really well in the two contests he’s entered so far. At the very least I’ll be able to steal some recipes or techniques.

It’s going to be hard for me to let Phil cook without putting my two cents into it. I like to cook. Actually, I love it. Usually, I’m the one doing it. Not to be modest, but I’m damn good at it. At parties I usually wind up on the grill because the cook is doing such a bad job, IMHO anyway. Also, I have a big mouth and a big ego. So this is going to be a lesson in humility, keeping my mouth shut and letting Phil work his magic.

I know I can add a lot to the team. I’ve been cooking for years, although never in a contest. I’ve got my architecture and design background to help with the presentation. I’ve got my limited judging experience. I know the rules. I have a good sense of taste. I know what is good and what works.

One of the things about “spectatoring” at contests is that you get to eat a lot of teams BBQ. They always ask for your opinion. At past contests, I haven’t always been honest about the food. How can you tell someone who’s put his heart and soul into the food that it sucks? Here, I’m going to need to be honest and diplomatic.

I’m going to compete on my own stating next year but, I haven’t worked out the money yet. I didn’t realize how much it would take to do it on a regular basis. I’ve asked around at other contests and was told to expect to spend about $300 on food for the weekend. Getting into this, that’s the tip of the iceberg. Besides equipment and fuel, there’s the food, lodging of family, travel costs, entry fees and whatever I’m not thinking about right now.

In terms of equipment, you need your smoker. If you can afford a big one like a Klose, you probably could get away with one. But, if you can’t, I think you need at least 4 WSM’s to be able to compete, one cooker for each food category. Add another $800. You also need a grill or another smoker to cook for the crew while you’re at the contest. So, now you’re up to $1,000. A Klose smoker, including shipping to NY, would run about $6,000.

Then there’s the ancillary equipment. Tables, lighting, utensils, dishes, buckets and cleaning equipment, chairs, tents, radio, fire extinguisher, first aid kit, cutting boards, etc. Let’s say that’s another $1,500.

Another thing is how do you get all that equipment to a contest? I have an old beat up van that I could use, but a trailer would be best. When I buy a Klose, I know that I want one on a trailer, but that means I need a vehicle that can tow it. That adds what $25,000?

Then there’s the fancy banners all the teams have. Add about $200 for that, between artist fees and printing.

I guess the initial investment is where the real costs lie. Most of that stuff is a one time purchase. I'll put together a more detailed and accurate list of equipment when I get a chance but, man this is an expensive hobby.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Do it yourself Pig Roast.

Here's an interesting link about how to raise a pig so that you can roast her!
Do it yourself Pig Roast.

Or if your lazy and have purchased a prepared swine from the butcher and just want the information on roasting pigs, here it is...
How to roast your very own little piggy!

Animals are met to be eaten! Why else would God have made them out of meat?

Things you don't want do when you BBQ

  • Defrost your meat in a microwave. You'll inadvertently cook part of it and it won't live up to its full potential. Defrost it slowly in the refrigerator, even if it takes a couple of days.
  • Pre-boil pork ribs. Many people do this to help make their ribs more tender, and it does. However, it also boils away much of the flavor. Cook your pork ribs low and slow, be patient with them and they will reward you in kind.
  • Use softwood or softwood charcoal. Soft woods such as pine will give your meat a taste of resin. Hardwoods such as oak, hickory, mesquite, pecan, or fruit are superior. Big Green Egg Lump Hardwood, Royal Oak or other charcoals marked as "hardwood charcoal" will burn better and cleaner than other charcoals.
  • Use instant charcoal. Match Lite, E-Z Lite or other charcoals that contain petroleum products will give your meat the taste of fuel.
  • Start your fire with petroleum fuel starters. A charcoal chimney is an easy effiecent way to start your fire without any petroleum products. You will not have any trace of fuel flavor to your meat.
  • Pour fuel onto a fire when you already have meat on the grill or in the cooker. I told you not to use petroleum products to start your fire but, if you didn't listen and you feel you need to crank up your fire by putting more your a real fool so please logoff from this site immediately! This sounds pretty obvious but I have seen amateurs and professionals do it! I have even witnessed this a barbeque competitions. If you feel you must practice this ill-advise procedure than you might as well pour fuel directly onto your meat.
  • Foget to have fun. The cooking and culture of BBQ requires you to relax, have fun and bond with your family and friends.

Today's Link and the inspriration of this list is : The Ugly Brothers

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Secrets from inside the Judge's tent

Last weekend, I got a chance to loose my judging cherry and officiate at the 2nd Annual Connecticut Barbeque Contest. Podunk Bluegrass & Barbeqye Contest

This was my first KCBS sanctioned contest and I was really looking forward to it. To be completely honest, I was a bit nervous too. The winners of this contest would qualify for the Jack Daniel's Invitational - a really big deal.
Jack Daniels Bar-B-Q Contest I didn't want to screw up.

I got to the contest early and walked around the competitors sites. This contest had some heavy hitters, including
The Smoke Ring, I Smell Smoke, Zak's BBQ and a lot of other winners. Of course, my friends The BBQ-Brethren were there. All in all there were 22 teams competing.

I got there around 9:30, judging of food would be at noon, so all of the teams were beginning to ramp up for the contests. I got to check out some cookers I've never seen before. There were a few Klose Pits, some homemade, Weber Smokey Mountains, New Braunfels and Langs. I had never seen a Lang smoker before. They seemed to be the most popular units there. People were proudly showing off there equipment. (easy now!) Anyone I asked showed me how to their unit worked.

I got to ask lots of questions, what type of wood, how long did you cook it, what spices, do you mop, baste, inject? Anything and everything I could think of. Everyone I spoke with answered all of my questions and didn't make me feel like an idiot. And I didn't once hear, "sorry, that's a secret."

Again, and I can't emphasize this enough, EVERYONE I spoke with was friendly, humble, and open. Not one team said that they had the best food. Almost everyone pointed to another team and said, you should talk to them, they have more experience, or they have great brisket. No one was singing their own praises. BBQ folks are a pretty humble bunch.

So at 10:45 I head over to the judging tent for our pre-judging meeting. I got to meet a lot of new people. I was really surprised to meet a judge from Manhattan. (Forgive me folks, I don't remember any of your names.) I was really surprised to meet a woman judge who lives about 6 blocks from me in Brooklyn. What a small world.

We were called to order and a CD was played explaining the rules of judging the contest. Most, if not all of the judges at this event were Certified BBQ judges, CBJs. We were sworn in and pledged to be honest and then had a break before the food would begin to flow. At this contest, we judged Chicken, Ribs, Pulled Shoulder/Butt, and Beef Brisket. Each judge, judges 6 different samples in each category. These are the standard KCBS foods.

At noon, you could see the competitors begin to drop off their food. Man, those folks looked tired. The judges are kept away from the drop off tables, close enough to see, but not close enough to make contact with the cookers. KCBS sanctioned contests are blind judging. Once the food is submitted, the team numbers are changed so that the judges never know whose food we are judging.

The first category was chicken. The table captain opened each box of food and showed it to us to judge appearance. Once Jamie, our table captain said, "Ladies and Gentlemen, this is box number...." we all fell silent and started judging. Judges are not allowed to speak to each other while the food is being judged. We are not allowed to motion to each other or make faces either. Game face on! Just like a poker game.

I was impressed on how professional everyone was and how seriously we all took out duties.

Chicken being the first category, I probably ate too much of each sample. The majority of samples were chicken thighs, one was skinless and one sample was a mix of skinless chicken breast and chicken legs and thighs. Each contestant must submit at least 6 identifiable pieces of food, but there's nothing stopping a cook form submitting more, in fact, it's encouraged. (You need to feed the table captains!)

There was complete silence while we judged. I think we spent about 15 minutes eating and rating our each food category before we were all ready to discuss our decisions. Once all the score cards were submitted we'd critique each category asking, which one was best and which was worse, but no one compared scores.

Next came ribs. One submission was challenged on its presentation because the ribs were so perfectly aligned and glazed that it looked like one solid piece of meat. The official KCBS rep was called and he said that he could see the cut marks and we were allowed to judge it. Every cook is given "the benefit of the doubt" when it comes to judging.

Two of the ribs stuck together when they were removed from the box, but luckily the cook had placed extra ribs below the slab. However, these ribs underneath were both burnt and dry. Were they only in the box to prop up the slab? To make it look good? Unfortunately, one of the judges had to eat the bad ribs and the score reflected this. I learned here, don't put anything in the box that's not the best.

One other submission, in brisket, when we were taking our samples, what should have been two pieces came out of the box as one. Luckily, the cook had included more that six slices in his/her box, otherwise it would have disqualified. If you can, always put extra food in the box!

The pork was probably the hardest for me to judge. It's not a food that is native to NYC. Each sample here was unique. Some were pulled, others chopped and some sliced. Some where sauced with a red BBQ sauce, some dry and some with a vinegar/pepper sauce. Very interesting. The experienced judges seemed to prefer pulled pork to the other samples, but if a box contained pulled and sliced, we all tried it both ways. I guess the cooks were trying to please the judges by giving them what they liked best, but I think it worked against them. If the pulled pork was good, the slices weren't. And vice versa. As a judge you need to judge it all, so I know people lost points here. Don't try to give the judges everything, find a way that works best for you and ONLY do that.

To me, and to most of the judges at my table, the best tasting pork had the vinegar/pepper sauce. Talking with cooks afterwards, I was told that they all felt that it was risky to use that sauce in a contest in the Northeast. I guess regional tastes do matter.

By the time the brisket came around I was feeling pretty full. To be honest with you, the brisket at my table of six judges was awful. Every one was bad. I hate to say that because I know how hard everyone worked on their food, but it was my job to judge. Every piece I had was over cooked and dried out. Some had no flavor at all. In a way I was glad that this category had bad food, because by the end of it, I really didn't want to eat anymore. But, I did my best to be fair and gave, what I think are honest scores.

After each category is judged, all left over food is given to the table captains and volunteers to eat. You want to see who's winning, check out which box of food gets eaten by them. They get to try everything, and they get to pick the best. Of course, there's no way to know who's food it is since the boxes are identical.

Once the judging was complete, I got to go back out amongst the competitors and ask them how they felt they did. Everyone was very hopeful and felt they had submitted their best. It may not have been the best they ever cooked, but it was the best they cooked this contest.

Some of my friends asked me to try their food now, to see how it compared to what I ate inside the tent. I was really full, but tried to he nice and took some bites. I got caught by one team chucking the food out after one bite. It wasn't a reflection of their food, which was great, but the simple fact that I was STUFFED. I hope they weren't offended. They came in in the top 5 so they know their food was good.

I stayed around for the awards ceremony. It was great watching as every team cheered for all the winners. Some of those trophies were pretty heavy. I can't wait till I get my chance to claim one.

So, now I've been a judge and a spectator. I have to say that being a spectator is more fun, and more educational. As a spectator, I got to roam around and bullshit with all of the cooks. I got to try a lot of the food and I could pick who the winners should be. I could put a face with each piece of meat.

As a judge, I got to eat a lot of good and not so good food, but there was no way for me to know who the winners would be. When the winners were announced I was surprised as they were.

My next BBQ contest will be at Asbury Park, New Jersey. Check it out here: Guitarbeque Yes folks, this time I will be joining Phil and the rest of the BBQ-Brethren and COOKING. Phil is an incredibly generous guy allowing me to join his team. He's done really well in his past contests. I hope I don't screw up his winning record!

If you want to know what the rules are for Kansas City Barbeque Society sanctioned contest, check out this link... http://www.kcbs.us/contents/conjoinrr.htm

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

BBQ People

I haven't written much lately, but the cause goes on. Since I went to the Long Island Grill Kings Contest, I've gotten to know a few people in the barbeque world. Some of them I've met at the contest and others I've met online.

So far, everyone of them, and I mean EVERY one of them is one of the nicest people I've ever met. Their interests, jobs, lives and loves, apart from BBQ, are very varied but all are united by the love of Barbeque.

BBQ people are really some of the best people on earth.

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